Officials at 7-Eleven plan on taking private label to new levels in the coming years.
The giant convenience store operator quietly rolled out a new private brand — 24/7 Life — that brought with it a new array of private label electronics accessories that the retailer said were benchmarked for quality against top national brands.
But the launch is turning out to be bigger than that. 24/7 Life will take over all of 7-Eleven’s nonfood private label products, creating a clear-cut delineation between its nonfood store brand offerings and its packaged foods, which will remain under the 7-Select name.
Together, in the year ahead, the private brands will continue to be a force inside the c-store’s overall sales growth, according to Jack Stout, senior vice president of merchandising and demand chain at Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven. “This year, 7-Eleven expects to exceed $1 billion in private brand sales,” he said.
The estimated growth comes just 12 years after 7-Eleven began its private brand business. In 2008, the convenience store retailer introduced 7- Select with just 87 items, primarily food and beverage products, according to Stout, but the company slowly added 7-Select health and beauty products, medicine and more.
The company now produces roughly 1,500 private brand items in total, and it was this growth that caused the company to seek to develop two primary private brands.
“As our assortment grew to nearly 1,500 products, we recognized an opportunity to separate 7-Eleven private brand products into two categories and bring nonfood items under one label,” Stout said. “7-Select continues to serve as our innovative and trusted line of food and beverage products, while 24/7 Life is an expansive assortment of nonfood products that fit the needs of our customers varying lifestyles.
BUILDING ON HERITAGE
The name 24/7 Life reflects the retailer’s heritage as a round-the-clock retailer.
Introduced in 1946, 7-Eleven was a store with rare, extended operating hours. Then, in the ’60s, the chain tested a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week concept store just off the Las Vegas strip and another near the University of Texas football stadium in Austin, Texas. Slowly more stores adopted the 24/7 model, especially near universities and colleges.
The company said that as America got younger in age and more jobs had workers staying late and coming in earlier, 7-Eleven shifted to be open and available for consumers.
In a sense, that’s what the 24/7 line aims to reflect, carrying items that are there 24/7 when consumers need them, even perhaps at a time that’s least expected.
“We provide customers with what they want, when they want it — 24/7, for life’s needs, whether that’s wireless earbuds on the way to the airport, medicine for a sick child, sunscreen at the beach or detergent for laundry,” Tim Cogil, formerly 7-Eleven’s senior director for private brands, said in a release when the items launched.
Stout said 7-Eleven is “obsessed with making life easier” for customers. “We were the first retailer to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we know our customers are hardworking, busy and need convenient quality solutions to keep them going 24/7, which led to the name 24/7 Life.”
Currently, the line comprises more than 200 products, including batteries, over-the-counter medications, cleaning products, paper goods, office supplies, wine accessories, beauty products, health-and-wellness offerings, travel-size toiletries and more. The products are available in stores now, but a visit to stores will still show some older 7-Select nonfood products on shelves as it’s still being phased out. Some 24/7 items also are available on the company’s 7NOW delivery mobile app.
Whereas convenience store chains may not stand out as the slickest of retail operators, the 24/7 Life logo does pop with a slicker, modern feel than perhaps expected of 7-Eleven. The stylized logo in the company’s trademark green, red and orange colors stands out on the packages, which are in a variety of colors.
The new line’s calling card seems to be electronics, which are being sold in four categories — audio, cable, charge and accessories — each of which is assigned a specific color-coded packaging. Currently, they are the 24/7 items most stocked in stores, along with some OTC products. Electronic items consist of wireless charging pads, speakers, wireless speakers, earbuds, power banks, chargers and cables, phone mounts, adapters, tech organizer bags, and screen-cleaning kits.
Consumer insights work told the company that consumers were looking for longer charging cords that are compatible with leading electronic brands like Apple and Android, and that is evident in the new line as cords come in lengths as long as 10 ft. 7-Eleven is particularly looking to market and stock electronics items in stores near hotels, airports and stadiums.
“Our dedicated 7-Eleven private brands team is constantly in the marketplace and attending tradeshows to find trustworthy vendor partners who share the same quality standards as we do,” Stout said. “Not only do we seek out partners that create products we know our customers will love, we also put time and resources into building lasting relationships with them.”
In the product announcement, Cogil said it was important to make sure the electronics in the 24/7 line were benchmarked against national brands. “To ensure compatibility with leading electronic brands such as Apple and Android, all lightning cables, chargers and adapters are certified by a third- party firm. 7-Eleven also has contracted with global trend forecasters about consumer trends and emerging products to stay out in front of rapidly changing technology trends."
7-SELECT GOING STRONG
While maybe the newest rollout, 24/7 Life will likely be the little brother to the 7-Select brand, which carries a much larger portfolio, and to 7-Eleven’s foodservice options, as well.
For 7-Select, three products were recently honored at the Private Label Trade Show, put on by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, winning awards in the Deli/Prepared Foods/Meal Kits category, Cookies and Crackers, and Mexican/Latin American Foods category. The products were a 7-Select Gourmet Snack Trio, a mix of cured pork genoa salami and provolone cheese; 7-Select French Macarons; and 7-Select Fresa Paleta bars, a Mexican-style frozen dessert. The winning products are a testament to the innovation coming out of the retailer’s private brands group.
Big Bite hot dogs and taquitos may be the retailer’s claim to fame in foodservice, but in the last year, 7-Eleven also has been innovating with its on-the-go food options, too. Recent launches include pulled pork and smoked turkey sliders, a first-of-its-kind breakfast pizza, gingerbread-flavored lattes, a Jarritos fountain drink for Big Gulp cups and more. The Slurpee, of course, is always evolving, even most recently adding a flavor inspired by 7-Eleven’s store brand energy drink Quake.
“Although fresh meals do not fall under the private brand portfolio, we do listen to customer feedback and tune into industry trends to enhance our assortment in all categories, whether it be organic cold-pressed juice under the 7-Select label or health and beauty products under the 24/7 Life label,” Stout said.
7-Eleven typically doesn’t share team members names below the director level and didn't with Store Brands, but the private brand team is headed by Stout. Other leadership consists of president and CEO Joe DePinto and senior vice president and chief marketing officer Marissa Henderson Jarratt.
The retailer is seeing astounding growth globally though, having just cracked 70,000 stores worldwide in 18 countries. In the two years that the company’s loyalty program 7Rewards has been active, it has grown from 9 million users to 25 million.
And, for the company to say it expects to see a billion dollars in sales from its private brands is impressive. By comparison, Kroger’s Simple Truth brand with roughly 1,500 products earned more than $2 billion in 2018. The grocer’s largest private brand, the Kroger brand, generated more than $13 billion in annual sales, selling eight times more than any other consumer goods brand in the store.
In 2018, 7-Eleven reported its highest operating income ever, seeing same-store sales rise by 3.4%. The company said it was driven by its fresh foods and 7-Select brand. With 24/7 Life in the fold, the retailer can expect more from its private brand assortment.
And, according to Stout, they are going to continue to innovate.
“With 7-Select as our primary packaged food brand, we continue to build equity in that category as we introduce innovative offerings,” he said. “Similarly, the assortment of products under the 24/7 Life brand will constantly be evolved and diversified to appeal to the nonfoods needs of customers.”